Research Paper: Fuel Cells in Green Engineering

Pages: 3 (1353 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] And, the technology was understood decades before that. Water as a fuel source is unimaginative though. Engineers want to see a problem and determine how they can make not only that process better, but how they can derive other solutions out of the one they are working on. Like a drug that has multiple uses, fuel cell technology may be the most green innovation currently being proposed because of its multiple possible applications.

As said previously, fuel cells have generally used water as a hydrogen source, but that process is being eclipsed by another idea. In the movie Back to the Future, doc Brown goes onto the future and re-equips his car with a fuel tank that takes trash and converts it to fuel. Modern microbial fuel cells may not quite live up to putting an old banana peel and a used beer can into the tank, but they operate on the principle of turning waste products into fuel.

Microbial fuel cells produce motive force in the same way as a traditional fuel cell, but they can use waste products such as farm runoff in the production of hydrogen. One of the greatest problems of the twentieth, and now twenty-first, century has been that farms produce so much waste that they are a negative impact on the environment. The Chesapeake Bay is becoming a forest of algae and dead fish because of the farm runoff along the waterway. If this waste could be put to some practical use, then it would help the environment and become useful.

The following is a shocking statement:

"The waste stream from one cow may hold 3,000 watts of potential power, but the electrical power required per cow on a dairy farm is only about 150 watts. This means that a first-generation MFC would have to be only 5% efficient to decouple the farm from external electrical infrastructure" (Birch)

Of course this is largely conjecture at this point, but what a boon for farmers and the environment alike. One dairy cow could potentially supply the needs of an entire farm. That is, if the fuel cells were 100% efficient, which they will never be. But they are much more efficient than regular means of electricity generation. This means that many areas could completely go off of the electrical grid which is powered by coal plants and nuclear plants. This green savings for the environment, in both reduced farm waste and reduced polluting emissions from traditional power plants, would be tremendous.

However, there is a potential green benefit that even outstrips these two. "MFCs are a budding technology that converts waste, such as industrial and agricultural byproducts, sewage, food scraps, paper, and plastics, into clean water and power" (Birch). The world is on the brink of having a serious dearth of clean water for its citizens (Fields). With this new technology that could be a problem of the past. Since the Earth itself is composed, in large part, of water, the technology could create clean, pure water where there was only desert before. It is the technology that keeps on giving


Few emerging technologies can compare to one that creates usable products from waste and does not itself create waste. This technology has so many applications that scientists are gleefully anticipating the next possibility (Fields). It is a revolution that could put an end to many of the problems seen in the world today. It seems the sky is the limit, but the entire story is yet to play out.

Works Cited

Birch, Amanda Sue. "Microbial Fuel Cells: Converting Waste to Water and Watts." Engineering and Technology for a Sustainable World. (2010). Print.

Fields, Scott. "Making the Best of Biomass: Hydrogen for Fuel Cells." Environmental Health Perspectives. (2003). Print.

Joy, Linda E. "A Basic Overview of Fuel Cell Technology." Automotive Community. (2007). Web.

Khan, Abdul Majeed. "Electricity Generation by Microbial Fuel Cells." Advances in Natural and Applied Sciences. (2009). Web.

Nice, Karim, and Jonathan Strickland. "How Fuel Cells Work." How Things Work. (2010). Web.

Patturaja, Isaac. "Fueling the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Fuel Cells in Green Engineering.  (2010, November 23).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from

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"Fuel Cells in Green Engineering."  November 23, 2010.  Accessed October 16, 2019.